It was originally built to contain the rails for the Rutland-Canadian Railroad which started to operate in 1901 and eventually ceased in 1961. If you try biking the trail, you’d be thankful that the trains stopped because it has been turned into the Island Rail Trail, one of the most scenic multiuse trails in the country today.
It is not that long. If you’re looking for a heavy work-out, then maybe you should look somewhere else but this 14-mile length of mixed pavement and packed gravel in Vermont which is also known as the Burlington Bikepath will definitely take your breath away. Cyclists and runners alike cruise along the shores of Lake Champlain, between Burlington and South Hero, and are indulged with lovely views of the lake, the surrounding mountains, sailboats, lighthouses and the never shabby sunsets. The trail also has beaches and parks where bikers can stop by to rest and enjoy the scenery.
The trail begins south of downtown Burlington, at the Oakledge Park trailhead on Flynn Street. Going north while skirting along the water, you will pass by beaches and shoreline parks on your way to the Winooski River Bridge. It connects the Burlington Bike Path to the Colchester Causeway.
It is the causeway that is the true jewel of the Island Rail Trail. It is 3.5 miles supported by huge slabs of mottled marble. The American elms are known to have suffered some kind of disease, but the ones that grow here have been spared due to their isolation and they grow happily along the sides of the trail, ushering you along with views of the Green Mountains of Vermont and the Adirondacks of New York, while being surrounded by a vast expanse of open water. It gives you that walking/running/biking on water feeling. If you also happen to be an avid birding and fishing enthusiast, you’ll be glad to know that there are warblers and king fishers, as well as lake out and walleye in the area. Make sure to watch out for the sunset when you are in the causeway. It will be a stunning view that you will never forget.
Depending on the time of year you’ve picked to visit the trail, your trip does not have to end there. You’ve already done 12.5 miles now, but if you want to complete the journey, you can go across to the island of South Hero through “The Cut.” This gap of 200 feet is closed by a ferry service that riders can take on weekends and holidays. There are groups who are pushing to make the ferry service more consistent, to operate all year round.
Once you have crossed The Cut, the trail goes on for another 1.5 miles before you find yourself in a parking lot, where the trail ends.
The trail is very popular but, fortunately, it does not get too crowded. Be aware that there are parts of the trail which are not good for road bikes because the trail bed is fairly loose and deep. It is also not recommended to use the causeway during bouts of winds and storms. Remember to bring your camera, too. You’ll want to keep photos, that’s for sure.
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